In a recent post, I described my recent leap from Denver to Austin…from a situation that was mostly satisfying but fell short in significant ways…from a life that was well known to this one, where I’m exploring new territory, searching about for a life that more closely resembles my dreams.
Now I want to begin digging into the practical implications of this leap and quest.
It’s interesting, as I continue to meet people in Austin, reflecting on my answers to the basic question, “What do you do?” At times I’ve resorted to the cliche’ “I’m between jobs,” though lately I’m more inclined to respond, “I’m taking some time to build up a nonprofit I started.” Yet even that statement, while honest, feels odd: an act of self-definition so transparent, surely others must see right through it.
After all, what does that mean, “building up a nonprofit”? What do I do with my time, how do I pay my bills?
I know I should cut myself some slack: I’ve lived in Austin not quite two months, and left Denver with a financial cushion that could cover my basic living expenses for up to a year, should I need—depending on how long I can postpone purchases like replacing the car and the health insurance I had to leave behind.
Of course I don’t want to go so long without generating income. While I wish I could retire right now—there’s no shortage of things I’d like to do, and I really don’t need much to get by—that’s simply not an option.
Truth be told, I enjoy the challenge of paring my material life down to essentials. There’s a great deal to be said for voluntary simplicity, seeing what you can live without. Still, I’m tired of living without a nice home and easy, reliable transportation. My impetus in leaving Denver was in large measure a desire to stop deferring gratification indefinitely.
So: I want to make CASE (the Center for Advancing Sudbury Education) into an active, self-sustaining operation. I want to work at my local Sudbury school, and work remotely with, and on behalf of, other Sudbury schools. I would love for this to form the bulk of my paying work and my working days.
I also want to be an active member of the Austin Zen Center, and I want to practice, rehearse, and perform with both of the local choirs I’ve joined. Oh, and I want to keep my schedule from getting too full.
I guess the big question at this point is how much time to spend on things that don’t currently pay, but eventually might. This is a approach to work quite new to me: most of my tasks now involve not only visioning and brainstorming, but even more so, a cultivating of connections. Networking and fundraising are the name of my new game.
Yet how much of a foundation do I need for CASE (no pun intended; I’m talking plans and infrastructure) before I can pursue fundraising on a serious, consistent basis? How low can I comfortably allow my financial cushion to sink before I start supplementing the work I love with whatever freelancing jobs I can scrounge up? When can I afford to spend time marketing my children’s books or following through on other projects and schemes?
More than anything else, I don’t want to waste the golden opportunity my frugal living these past years has offered me: the time to pursue financial viability by working in ways with which I resonate deeply.